Today is my birthday. As I have done in previous years, it’s the time when I stop and think about the past year and what I want from the year ahead. This year was notable for its inconsistency; many highs and many lows, not much middle-of-the-road unless you look at the average. I am very critical of myself and it’s easier to focus on the lows than remember the high points, which is why this is an important annual exercise for me.
I should start with the fact that I got married. That is definitely the highlight of the year. I can’t begin to explain how weird it is to go from thinking that an official marriage was never a possibility for consideration, to actually calling someone your wife. I didn’t need the signed document to feel married to the person I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with since the first time I laid eyes on her back in 2001, but now that I have it, I understand what it means. It remains to be seen how the US legislation will evolve and how societal understanding of this will evolve, but the fact is, I am now a married lady and as far as I’m concerned, nothing will change that.
I realize now that I didn’t write a post like this last year on my birthday (I have no idea why), which is a shame because it was when Mel graduated (summa cum laude!) from Med school, which meant the end of our endless Pittsburgh-Philadelphia weekend commute that lasted 4 years. We also bought a house, which has been a super fun non-stop furnishing/improvement project and when we introduced Smokey Lonesome to the household.
This year I also realized the impact that moving to the US really had on me. Two really bad things happened: One, I have lost much of my ability to speak my native language and two, I pretty much lost touch with everyone I knew back home, including family and friends. Not just that, but I realized that since I moved to Philly I became so focused on work that didn’t really invest time in developing new local friendships, exploring my personal interests or doing the kind of learning that I enjoy. This is strange for two reasons: I am always busy and I have relationships with people all over the place (maintained online mostly).
The always busy part is also a symptom of that good old procrastination combined with a lack of clear direction. Fortunately, I snapped out of it occasionally and did some sensible things like moving on to a new role at work that would allow me to further develop my professional interests and re-joining the Information Architecture Institute leadership.
That procrastination thing still bothered me. It got to a point it was getting me really down. As usual, there would be moments of extreme productivity, enjoyment and happiness, soon to be followed by not wanting to do much, letting things pile up and stop pursuing the things that interest me. At the lowest points, this bad funk was pretty depressing; to the point of manifesting itself via physical pain (back pain, joint pain, muscle pain, headaches, you name it).
That was actually good because forced me to do something. I thought it was an actual physical problem so I went to a doctor for the first time in years (everything is good there!) and even got me to try a chiropractor (which now that tried I can say for sure: Quacks!). I was not convinced so I decided to go into therapy – maybe there was an upstairs problem – that was actually pretty good and helped me talk through whatever I thought was the problem and get some perspective.
The reality is I procrastinate because I need stimuli. If I am not challenged I’ll invent problems to solve. Procrastinating is a great way to do that. The most mundane thing becomes a thrilling challenge when you have to get it done under pressure. Oh that silly human brain…
Figuring out the problem is half of the solution so that was definitely a big highlight for the year. Unfortunately, years upon years of procrastination do amount to a certain surplus of abandoned projects, unfulfilled commitments, burnt bridges and guilt. Which leads me to my resolutions for this year.
Today I’m declaring information and commitment bankruptcy. Bankruptcy means declaring an inability to pay creditors. In this case I’m qualifying it as information and commitment bankruptcy because I’m just unable to catch up on my procrastination debt. I tried. I’ve been trying for months and I just can’t. I get a million things done and it’s not even a dent on the things I think I’m supposed to do.
I have email boxes with thousands of messages, hard drives with thousands of files and cabinets with hundreds of folders, all unfinished business. What caused this is now very obvious to me. I am just too damn good: I feel like I can do everything. That’s a curse! Specially when you don’t do a good job at differentiating what you CAN do from what you WANT to do.
This next year I am going to focus on what I want to do. I’m going to learn how to differentiate want and can for myself, and stop trying to be the cheerleader and save the world too. That ought to help me understand what I should/should not do and must/must not do. And with filing for information and commitment bankruptcy here’s what I ask of you: if you and I have had an exchange, agreement or I already failed you, let’s renegotiate. I don’t want to let you down and I don’t want to let myself down.
Bankruptcy is shameful if it’s just a cop-out. You don’t declare financial bankruptcy then get a new credit card to go shopping. I know I can’t pay my procrastination dept but I can not incur in new debt so I don’t end up in the same place in the future. And as far as information goes, I know the flow and volume of information I’m exposed to and feel like I need to act on will not diminish, but I’m trying to learn to accept and be ok with the fact that I have no control over that.
PS: Writing all this up is kind of weird because in the past year my online relationships have grown a lot and I know many more will likely read this than in the past. About to hit publish on this thing and the vulnerable light on my dashboard is blinking. But that’s ok, I guess. I’d rather you get to know me as me than whatever other image of me there might be, heightened or misguided.
Here’s to a great year!